We try out the all-new Suzuki Swift to see if this model, like its predecessor, causes a paradigm shift in the hatchback segment.
If you think about it, the history of hatchbacks in our country can be divided into two eras – Before Swift and After Swift.
You see, when the Maruti Suzuki Swift was introduced in the middle of the last decade, it was so much more stylish than its rivals, and it drove so much better than any other small car of the time that it became an instant game-changer. In many ways, it opened up the premium end of the hatchback market – a segment that’s now thriving with the likes of the Skoda Fabia, Hyundai i20, Volkswagen Polo, and a number of new entrants. So, is what we have here – the all-new Swift – as much of a paradigm shift?
Well, visually it doesn’t seem so. It’s more an evolution of the previous generation – a more grown up version so to speak – rather than a drastic redesign. Even though every panel is all new, and the car’s bigger as well, it looks more like a facelift rather than a generation change. Not surprisingly, this does leave most people guessing about just what’s new. Communicating that may pose to be a challenge for Suzuki – especially since everything is in fact new. On the other hand, you can’t really argue with the theory of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ After all, the old Maruti Suzuki Swift had a waiting list right up to the point when this new version was introduced – to the extent that people have already been waiting for weeks and months to get their new car. In fact, I almost got assaulted by someone on the road who couldn’t understand how I’d gotten my hands on the new Maruti Suzuki Swift before him – since he had already been waiting for four months. That apart, I, for one, like how it looks – so, I’m not complaining. I even like the oversized head and tail lights, as well as the sweptback style of the alloys on the top-of-the-line ZXi model, which is what we have here.
This car also has the familiar 1.2 litre petrol engine from the previous model, except that it’s been given variable valve timing to bring it up to date – allowing it to provide a claimed fuel economy figure of 18.6 km/l, while still producing 86 horsepower. Now, it could use a little more torque low down, but it’s a tried and tested powerplant that’s extremely usable and refined for everyday use. And there is a bit of a kick at 4000rpm when you do actually feel the variable valve timing kick in. More than ultimate performance, however, its refinement that the engineers have focussed on – and it’s here that they’ve worked wonders. Starting from the interior, which provides the sense of being more mini Kizashi rather than grown up Maruti Suzuki Swift. The fit-and-finish is excellent, and the quality of materials has taken a huge step up. The design as well is contemporary, with silver accents that nicely complement the soft touch plastics. The door panels, however, hint at cost cutting – and, like the old Swift, will most likely form rattles in no time on our less than ideal roads. On the whole, though, the quality is fantastic. And, with 95% Indiginization, it does go to show just how far our components industry has come.
The equipment levels in the ZXi are pretty good as well. It has a digital readout in the center of the instrument cluster that provides an on-board computer, temperature gauge, and clock. You also get an in-built CD player with surprisingly good sound quality, and a USB and auxiliary input, as well as climate control – in addition to a multi-function steering wheel. What’s missing, however, are a few basics like a telescoping steering wheel – this one only adjusts for height – and a dead pedal (a foot rest for your left foot). Plus, the rear seat is still a little claustrophobic, courtesy of its stylish but narrow rear window. Nevertheless, you do get a slightly bigger boot, cup holders aplenty, and, finally, a decent horn.
But, where the engineers have truly worked their magic is in the NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) department, which is in another league altogether when compared to the outgoing car. The wind noise is minimal, the refinement is excellent, and the ride is exceptional for a small car. In fact, the ride and handling balance is near perfect. The hallmark of the Maruti Suzuki Swift has always been that it’s a fun-to-drive car, and, thankfully, that’s a trait which has been very much retained by this more mature machine. The chassis is stiff, and handling is excellent. The levels of grip are good, even in the wet, but it is let down eventually by its 185/65 R15 MRF ZVTV’s.
On the whole though, while the new Maruti Suzuki Swift may not be a game changer like the previous generation, it certainly does move the game forward in its own right. It’s a great hatch for everyday use – one that’s extremely refined with a great cabin, and still fun-to-drive. The petrol engine is as smooth as ever, and the 1.3 litre CRDi diesel, sourced from Fiat, is there for the taking as well if you travel long distances or just prefer the stronger low end torque of the oil burner (190Nm at 2000rpm versus 114Nm at 4000rpm). And, all of this is available at a very competitive price as well (starting at just 4.2 lakhs). But then it has to be, because this is the most hotly contested space in the Indian automotive industry at the moment – a trend set off by the cars very own predecessor!